Monday, December 27, 2010

Marlene Dietrich (27 Dec, 1901 - 6 May, 1992)


On Dec. 27, 1901, Marlene Dietrich, the magnetic movie star and singer who was considered an international symbol of glamour, was born.

Dietrich remained popular throughout her long career by continually re-inventing herself. In 1920s Berlin, she acted on the stage and in silent films. Her performance as Lola-Lola in The Blue Angel, directed by Josef von Sternberg, brought her international fame and a contract with Paramount Pictures in the US. Hollywood films such as Shanghai Express and Desire capitalised on her glamour and exotic looks, cementing her stardom and making her one of the highest paid actresses of the era. Dietrich became a US citizen in 1939; during World War II, she was a high-profile frontline entertainer. Although she still made occasional films in the post-war years, Dietrich spent most of the 1950s to the 1970s touring the world as a successful show performer.

In 1999 the American Film Institute named Dietrich the ninth greatest female star of all time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Facts & Trivia





"Hot cockles" was a popular game at Christmas in medieval times. It was a game in which the other players took turns striking the blindfolded player, who had to guess the name of the person delivering each blow. "Hot cockles" was still a Christmas pastime until the Victorian era.

"White Christmas" (1954), starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, was the first movie to be made in Vista Vision, a deep-focus process.

"The Nutcracker" is the name for the ballet performed around Christmas time each year. "The Nutcracker Suite" is the title of the music Tchaikovsky wrote.

"Wassail" comes from the Old Norse "ves heill"--to be of good health. This evolved into the tradition of visiting neighbors on Christmas Eve and drinking to their health.

A Christmas club, a savings account in which a person deposits a fixed amount of money regularly to be used at Christmas for shopping, came about around 1905.

A traditional Christmas dinner in early England was the head of a pig prepared with mustard.
According to a 1995 survey, 7 out of 10 British dogs get Christmas gifts from their doting owners.

According to historical accounts, the first Christmas in the Philippines was celebrated 200 years before Ferdinand Magellan discovered the country for the western world, likely between the years 1280 and 1320 AD.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans buy 37.1 million real Christmas trees each year; 25 percent of them are from the nation's 5,000 choose-and-cut farms.

After "A Christmas Carol," Charles Dickens wrote several other Christmas stories, one each year, but none was as successful as the original.

Alabama was the first state to recognize Christmas as an official holiday. This tradition began in 1836.

Although many believe the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year, it is not. It is the fifth to tenth busiest day. The Friday and Saturday before Christmas are the two busiest shopping days of the year.

American billionaire Ross Perot tried to airlift 28 tons of medicine and Christmas gifts to American POW's in North Vietnam in 1969.

America's official national Christmas tree is located in King's Canyon National Park in California. The tree, a giant sequoia called the "General Grant Tree," is over 300 feet (90 meters) high. It was made the official Christmas tree in 1925.

An artificial spider and web are often included in the decorations on Ukrainian Christmas trees. A spider web found on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck.

An average household in America will mail out 28 Christmas cards each year and see 28 eight cards return in their place.

Animal Crackers are not really crackers, but cookies that were imported to the United States from England in the late 1800s. Barnum's circus-like boxes were designed with a string handle so that they could be hung on a Christmas tree.

As early as 1822, the postmaster in Washington, D.C. was worried by the amount of extra mail at Christmas time. His preferred solution to the problem was to limit by law the number of cards a person could send. Even though commercial cards were not available at that time, people were already sending so many home-made cards that sixteen extra postmen had to be hired in the city.

At Christmas, Ukrainians prepare a traditional twelve-course meal. A family's youngest child watches through the window for the evening star to appear, a signal that the feast can begin.

At lavish Christmas feasts in the Middle Ages, swans and peacocks were sometimes served "endored." This meant the flesh was painted with saffron dissolved in melted butter. In addition to their painted flesh, endored birds were served wrapped in their own skin and feathers, which had been removed and set aside prior to roasting.

Before settling on the name of Tiny Tim for his character in "A Christmas Carol," three other alliterative names were considered by Charles Dickens. They were Little Larry, Puny Pete, and Small Sam.

California, Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are the top Christmas tree producing states. Oregon is the leading producer of Christmas trees - 8.6 million in 1998.

Candy canes began as straight white sticks of sugar candy used to decorated the Christmas trees. A choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral decided have the ends bent to depict a shepherd's crook and he would pass them out to the children to keep them quiet during the services. It wasn't until about the 20th century that candy canes acquired their red stripes.

Charles Dickens' initial choice for Scrooge's statement "Bah Humbug" was "Bah Christmas."

Child singer Jimmy Boyd was 12 years and 11 months old when he sang the Christmas favorite, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." The song hit the top of the pop charts.

Christmas caroling began as an old English custom called Wassailing - toasting neighbors to a long and healthy life.

Christmas Day in the Ukraine can be celebrated on either December 25, in faithful alliance with the Roman Catholic Gregorian calendar, or on January 7, which is the Orthodox or Eastern Rite (Julian calendar), the church holy day.

Christmas is a summer holiday in South Africa. Children are fond of the age-old custom of producing pantomimes - for instance, "Babes in the Wood," founded on one of the oldest ballads in the English language. Boxing Day on December 26th, when boxes of food and clothing are given to the poor, is observed as a holiday.

Christmas is not widely celebrated in Scotland. Some historians believe that Christmas is downplayed in Scotland because of the influence of the Presbyterian Church (or Kirk), which considered Christmas a "Papist," or Catholic event. As a result, Christmas in Scotland tends to be somber.

Christmas presents were known in antiquity among kings and chieftains, especially on the European continent. However, they have been common among ordinary people in Iceland only during the past 100 or so years.

Christmas trees are edible. Many parts of pines, spruces, and firs can be eaten. The needles are a good source of vitamin C. Pine nuts, or pine cones, are also a good source of nutrition.

Christmas trees are known to have been popular in Germany as far back as the sixteenth century.

In England, they became popular after Queen Victoria's husband Albert, who came from Germany, made a tree part of the celebrations at Windsor Castle.

In the United States, the earliest known mention of a Christmas tree is in the diary of a German who settled in Pennsylvania.

Christmas was once a moveable feast celebrated at many different times during the year.

The choice of December 25, was made by Pope Julius I, in the 4th century A.D., because this coincided with the pagan rituals of Winter Solstice, or Return of the Sun. The intent was to replace the pagan celebration with the Christian one.

Cultured Christmas trees must be shaped as they grow to produce fuller foliage. To slow the upward growth and to encourage branching, they are hand-clipped in each spring.

Trees grown in the wild have sparser branches, and are known in the industry as "Charlie Brown" trees.

During the ancient 12-day Christmas celebration, the log burned was called the "Yule log."
Sometimes a piece of the Yule log would be kept to kindle the fire the following winter, to ensure that the good luck carried on from year to year. The Yule log custom was handed down from the Druids.

During the Christmas buying season, Visa cards alone are used an average of 5,340 times every minute in the United States.

During the Christmas/Hanukkah season, more than 1.76 billion candy canes will be made.

During World War II it was necessary for Americans to mail Christmas gifts early for the troops in Europe to receive them in time. Merchants joined in the effort to remind the public to shop and mail early and the protracted shopping season was born.

Electric Christmas tree lights were first used in 1895. The idea for using electric Christmas lights came from an American, Ralph E. Morris. The new lights proved safer than the traditional candles.

Following Princess Diana's tragic death in 1997, the Ty toy company, famous in the late 1990s for its popular Beanie Baby line of beanbag animals, issued a "Princess" bear in tribute. The royal purple Beanie, bearing an embroidered white rose on its chest, became so desired that at Christmas time, American collectors were willing to spend up to $300 for one on the secondary market.

For every real Christmas tree harvested, 2 to 3 seedlings are planted in its place.

There are two Christmas Islands.The Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean was formerly called Kiritimati. Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean is 52 square miles.

Frankincense is a sweet smelling gum resin derived from certain Boswellia trees which, at the time of Christ, grew in Arabia, India, and Ethiopia. Tradition says that it was presented to the Christ Child by Balthasar, the black king from Ethiopia or Saba. The frankincense trade was at its height during the days of the Roman Empire. At that time this resin was considered as valuable as gems or precious metals. The Romans burned frankincense on their altars and at cremations.

Franklin Pierce was the first United States' president to decorate an official White House Christmas tree .

Frumenty was a spiced porridge, enjoyed by both rich and poor. It is thought to be the forerunner of modern Christmas puddings. It has its origins in a Celtic legend of the harvest god Dagda, who stirred a porridge made up of all the good things of the Earth.

Frustrated at the lack of interest in his new toy invention, Charles Pajeau hired several midgets, dressed them in elf costumes, and had them play with "Tinker Toys" in a display window at a Chicago department store during the Christmas season in 1914. This publicity stunt made the construction toy an instant hit. A year later, over a million sets of Tinker Toys had been sold.

George Washington spent Christmas night 1776 crossing the Delaware River in dreadful conditions. Christmas 1777 fared little better - at Valley Forge, Washington and his men had a miserable Christmas dinner of Fowl cooked in a broth of Turnips, cabbage and potatoes.

Greeks do not use Christmas trees or give presents at Christmas. A priest may throw a little cross into the village water to drive the kallikantzari (gremlin-like spirits) away. To keep them from hiding in dark, dusty corners, he goes from house to house sprinkling holy water.

Hallmark introduced its first Christmas cards in 1915, five years after the founding of the company.

Historians have traced some of the current traditions surrounding Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, back to ancient Celtic roots. Father Christmas's elves are the modernization of the "Nature folk" of the Pagan religions; his reindeer are associated with the "Horned God," which was one of the Pagan deities.

If traveling in France during the Christmas season, it is interesting to note that different dishes and dining traditions reign in popularity in different parts of the country. In south France, for instance, a Christmas loaf (pain calendeau) is cut crosswise and is eaten only after the first part has been given to a poor person. In Brittany, buckwheat cakes and sour cream is the most popular main dish. In Alsace, a roasted goose is the preferred entrée. In Burgundy, turkey and chestnuts are favored. In the Paris region, oysters are the favorite holiday dish, followed by a cake shaped like a Yule log.

In 1647, the English parliament passed a law that made Christmas illegal. Festivities were banned by Puritan leader, Oliver Cromwell, who considered feasting and revelry, on what was supposed to be a holy day, to be immoral. The ban was lifted only when the Puritans lost power in 1660.

In 1752, 11 days were dropped from the year when the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar was made. The December 25, date was effectively moved 11 days backwards. Some Christian church sects, called old calendarists, still celebrate Christmas on January 7 (previously December 25 of the Julian calendar).

In 1907, Oklahoma became the last US state to declare Christmas a legal holiday.

In 1937, the first postage stamp to commemorate Christmas was issued in Austria.

In 1947, Toys for Tots started making the holidays a little happier for children by organizing its first Christmas toy drive for needy youngsters.

In 1996, Christmas caroling was banned at two major malls in Pensacola, Florida. Apparently, shoppers and merchants complained the carolers were too loud and took up too much space.

In an effort to solicit cash to pay for a charity Christmas dinner in 1891, a large crabpot was set down on a San Francisco street, becoming the first Salvation Army collection kettle.

In America, the weeks leading up to Christmas are the biggest shopping weeks of the year. Many retailers make up to 70% of their annual revenue in the month preceding Christmas.

In Armenia, the traditional Christmas Eve meal consists of fried fish, lettuce, and spinach. The meal is traditionally eaten after the Christmas Eve service, in commemoration of the supper eaten by Mary on the evening before Christ's birth.

In Britain, eating mince pies at Christmas dates back to the 16th century. It is still believed that to eat a mince pie on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas will bring 12 happy months in the year to follow.

In Britain, the Holy Days and Fasting Days Act of 1551, which has not yet been repealed, states that every citizen must attend a Christian church service on Christmas Day, and must not use any kind of vehicle to get to the service.

In Finland and Sweden an old tradition prevails, where the twelve days of Christmas are declared to be time of civil peace by law. It used to be that a person committing crimes during this time would be liable to a stiffer sentence than normal.

In France, Christmas is called Noel. This is derived from the French phrase "les bonnes nouvelles," which means literally "the good news" and refers to the gospel.

In Greek legend, malicious creatures called Kallikantzaroi (also spelled Kallikantzari) sometimes play troublesome pranks at Christmas time. According to the legend, to get rid of them, you should burn either salt or an old shoe. Apparently the stench of the burning shoe (or salt) drives off the Kallikantzaroi. Other effective methods include hanging a pig's jawbone by the door and keeping a large fire so they can't sneak down the chimney.

In Guatemala, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25; however, Guatemalan adults do not exchange gifts until New Year's Day. Children get theirs (from the Christ Child) on Christmas morning.

In Medieval England, Nicholas was just another saint - he had not yet been referred to as Santa Claus and he had nothing to do with Christmas.

In North America, children put stockings out at Christmas time. Their Dutch counterparts, however, use shoes. Dutch children set out shoes to receive gifts any time between mid-November and December 5, St. Nicholas' birthday.

In Norway on Christmas Eve, visitors should know that after the family's big dinner and the opening of presents, all the brooms in the house are hidden. The Norwegians long ago believed that witches and mischievous spirits came out on Christmas Eve and would steal their brooms for riding.

In Portugal, the traditional Christmas meal (consoada) is eaten in the early hours of Christmas Day. Burning in the hearth is the Yule log (fogueira da consoada). The ashes and charred remains of the Yule log are saved; later in the year, they are burned with pine cones during Portugal's thunderstorm season. It is believed that no thunderbolt will strike where the Yule log smoke has traveled.

In southern France, some people burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Year's Day. This stems from an ancient tradition in which farmers would use part of the log to ensure a plentiful harvest the following year.

In Sweden, a common Christmas decoration is the Julbock. Made from straw, it is a small figurine of a goat. A variety of straw decorations are a usual feature of Scandinavian Christmas festivities.

In Syria, Christmas gifts are distributed by one of the Wise Men's camels. The gift-giving camel is said to have been the smallest one in the Wise Men's caravan.

In the British armed forces it is traditional that officers wait on the men and serve them their Christmas dinner. This dates back to a custom from the Middle Ages.

In the Netherlands, Christmas centers on the arrival of Saint Nicholas, who is believed to come on horseback bearing gifts. Before going to bed, children leave out their shoes, hoping to find them filled with sweets when they awaken.

In the Thomas Nast cartoon that first depicted Santa Claus with a sleigh and reindeer, he was delivering Christmas gifts to soldiers fighting in the U.S. Civil War. The cartoon, entitled "Santa Claus in Camp," appeared in Harper's Weekly on January 3, 1863.

In the Ukraine, a traditional Christmas bread called "kolach" is placed in the center of the dining table. This bread is braided into a ring, and three such rings are placed one on top of the other, with a candle in the center of the top one. The three rings symbolize the Trinity.

In Victorian England, turkeys were popular for Christmas dinners. Some of the birds were raised in Norfolk, and taken to market in London. To get them to London, the turkeys were supplied with boots made of sacking or leather. The turkeys were walked to market. The boots protected their feet from the frozen mud of the road. Boots were not used for geese: instead, their feet were protected with a covering of tar.

It is a British Christmas tradition that a wish made while mixing the Christmas pudding will come true only if the ingredients are stirred in a clockwise direction.

It is estimated that 400,000 people become sick each year from eating tainted Christmas leftovers.

Jesus Christ, son of Mary, was born in a cave, not in a wooden stable. Caves were used to keep animals in because of the intense heat. A large church is now built over the cave, and people can go down inside the cave. The carpenters of Jesus' day were really stone cutters. Wood was not used as widely as it is today. So whenever you see a Christmas nativity scene with a wooden stable -- that's the "American" version, not the Biblical one.

La Befana, a kindly witch, rides a broomstick down the chimney to deliver toys into the stockings of Italian children. The legends say that Befana was sweeping her floors when the three Wise Men stopped and asked her to come to see the Baby Jesus. "No," she said, "I am too busy." Later, she changed her mind but it was too late. So, to this day, she goes out on Christmas Eve searching for the Holy Child, leaving gifts for the "holy child" in each household.

Long before it was used as a "kiss encourager" during the Christmas season, mistletoe had long been considered to have magic powers by Celtic and Teutonic peoples. It was said to have the ability to heal wounds and increase fertility. Celts hung mistletoe in their homes in order to bring themselves good luck and ward off evil spirits.

Mistletoe, a traditional Christmas symbol, was once revered by the early Britons. It was so sacred that it had to be cut with a golden sickle.

More diamonds are purchased at Christmas-time (31 percent) than during any other holiday or occasion during the year.

More than three billion Christmas cards are sent annually in the United States.

Myrrh is an aromatic gum resin which oozes from gashes cut in the bark of a small desert tree known as Commifera Myrrha or the dindin tree. The myrrh hardens into tear-dropped shaped chunks and is then powdered or made into ointments or perfumes. This tree is about 5-15 feet tall and 1 foot in diameter. Legend says Caspar brought the gift of myrrh from Europe or Tarsus and placed it before the Christ Child. Myrrh was an extremely valuable commodity during biblical times and was imported from India and Arabia.

New York City's Empire State Building's world famous tower lights are turned off every night at midnight with the exception of New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and St. Patrick's Day, when they are illuminated until 3 a.m.

On Christmas Day, 1989, Eastern Europe was permitted to celebrate Christmas freely and openly for the first time in decades. Church masses were broadcast live for the first time in history.

One Norwegian Christmas custom begins in late autumn at harvest time. The finest wheat is gathered and saved until Christmas. This wheat is then attached to poles made from tree branches, making perches for the birds. A large circle of snow is cleared away beneath each perch. According to the Norwegians, this provides a place for the birds to dance, which allows them to work up their appetites between meals. Just before sunset on Christmas Eve, the head of the household checks on the wheat in the yard. If a lot of sparrows are seen dining, it is suppose to indicate a good year for growing crops.

One notable medieval English Christmas celebration featured a giant 165-pound pie. The giant pie was nine feet in diameter. Its ingredients included 2 bushels of flour, 20 pounds of butter, 4 geese, 2 rabbits, 4 wild ducks, 2 woodcocks, 6 snipes, 4 partridges, 2 neats' tongues, 2 curlews, 6 pigeons, and 7 blackbirds.

Originally, Christmas decorations were home-made paper flowers, or apples, biscuits, and sweets.

The earliest decorations to be bought came from Nuremburg in Germany, a city famous for the manufacture of toys. Lauscha in Germany is famous for its glass ornaments. In 1880, America discovered Lauscha and F.W. Woolworth went there and bought a few glass Christmas tree ornaments. Within a day he had sold out so next year he bought more and within a week they, too, had sold. The year after that be bought 200,000 Lauscha ornaments. During the First World War supplies of ornaments from Lauscha ceased, so American manufacturers began to make their own ornaments, developing new techniques that allowed them to turn out as many ornaments in a minute as could be made in a whole day at Lauscha.

Per a November 2000 Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans thought they would spend at least $500 that year on Christmas gifts. This was a slight drop from 1999 gift-spending.

Postmen in Victorian England were popularly called "robins." This was because their uniforms were red. The British Post Office grew out of the carrying of royal dispatches. Red was considered a royal color, so uniforms and letter-boxes were red. Christmas cards often showed a robin delivering Christmas mail.

Queen Elizabeth's Christmas message to the nation was televised for the first time on December 25, 1957. For the next 40 years, the BBC aired the event.

Right behind Christmas and Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday ranks as the third-largest occasion for Americans to consume food, according to the National Football League.

Santa's Reindeers are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.

Silent Night was written in 1818, by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr. He was told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would not be prepared in time for Christmas Eve. He was saddened by this and could not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music. He sat down and wrote three stanzas. Later that night the people in the little Austrian Church sang "Stille Nacht" for the first time.

St. Nicholas was bishop of the Turkish town of Myra in the early fourth century. It was the Dutch who first made him into a Christmas gift-giver, and Dutch settlers brought him to America where his name eventually became the familiar Santa Claus.

Telesphorus, the second Bishop of Rome (125-136 AD) declared that public Church services should be held to celebrate "The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour." In 320 AD, Pope Julius I and other religious leaders specified 25 December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The "Twelve Days of Christmas" was originally written to help Catholic children, in England, remember different articles of faith during the persecution by Protestant Monarchs. The "true love" represented God, and the gifts all different ideas:

The "Partridge in a pear tree" was Christ.
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity-- the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which relays the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of Creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

NOTE: Urban Legends Reference Pages says the above fact is False.

The abbreviation of Xmas for Christmas is not irreligious. The first letter of the word Christ in Greek is chi, which is identical to our X. Xmas was originally an ecclesiastical abbreviation that was used in tables and charts.

The actual gift givers are different in various countries: England: Father ChristmasFrance: Pere Noel (Father Christmas)Germany: Christkind (angelic messenger from Jesus) She is a beautiful fair haired girl with a shining crown of candles.Holland: St Nicholas.Italy: La Befana (a kindly old witch)Spain and South America: The Three KingsRussia: In some parts - Babouschka (a grandmotherly figure) in other parts it is Grandfather Frost.Scandinavia: a variety of Christmas gnomes. One is called Julenisse.

The best selling Christmas trees are Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, Balsam fir and white pine.

The Canadian province of Nova Scotia leads the world in exporting lobster, wild blueberries, and Christmas trees.

The Christmas season begins at sundown on 24th December and lasts through sundown on 5th January. For that reason, this season is also known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The Christmas turkey first appeared on English tables in the 16th century, but didn't immediately replace the traditional fare of goose, beef or boar's head in the rich households.

The custom of singing Christmas carols is very old - the earliest English collection was published in 1521.

The day after Christmas, December 26, is known as Boxing Day. It is also the holy day called The Feast of St. Stephen. Some believe the feast was named for St. Stephen, a 9th century Swedish missionary, the patron saint of horses. Neither Boxing Day or St. Stephen have anything to do with Sweden or with horses. The Stephen for whom the day is named is the one in the Bible (Acts 6-8) who was the first Christian to be martyred for his faith.

The first British monarch to broadcast a Christmas message to his people was King George V.

The first charity Christmas card was produced by UNICEF in 1949. The picture chosen for the card was painted not by a professional artist but by a seven-year-old girl. The girl was Jitka Samkova of Rudolfo, a small town in the former nation of Czechoslovakia. The town received UNICEF assistance after World War II, inspiring Jitka to paint some children dancing around a maypole. She said her picture represented "joy going round and round."

The first Christmas card was created in England on December 9, 1842.

The first commercial Christmas card sold was designed by London artist John Calcott Horsley. He was hired by a wealthy British man to design a card that showed people feeding and clothing the poor with another picture of a Christmas party. The first Christmas card said, "Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you." Of the original one thousand cards he printed for Henry Cole, only twelve exist today.

The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.

The four ghosts in Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" were the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas Yet to Come, and the ghost of Jacob Marley.

The movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (2000) features more than 52,000 Christmas lights, about 8,200 Christmas ornaments, and nearly 2,000 candy canes.

The modern Christmas custom of displaying a wreath on the front door of one's house, is borrowed from ancient Rome's New Year's celebrations. Romans wished each other "good health" by exchanging branches of evergreens. They called these gifts strenae after Strenia, the goddess of health. It became the custom to bend these branches into a ring and display them on doorways.

The northern European custom of the candlelit Christmas tree is derived from the belief that it sheltered woodland spirits when other trees lost their leaves during winter.

The poem commonly referred to as "The Night Before Christmas" was originally titled "A Visit From Saint Nicholas." This poem was written by Clement Moore for his children and some guests, one of whom anonymously sent the poem to a New York newspaper for publication.

The poinsettia, traditionally an American Christmas flower, originally grew in Mexico; where it was known as the "Flower of the Holy Night". It was first brought to America by Joel Poinsett in 1829.

The popular Christmas song "Jingle Bells" was composed in 1857 by James Pierpont, and was originally called "One-Horse Open Sleigh."

The Puritans forbade the singing of Christmas carols.

The real St. Nicholas lived in Turkey, where he was bishop of the town of Myra, in the early 4th century. It was the Dutch who first made him into a Christmas gift-giver, and Dutch settlers brought him to America where his name eventually became the familiar Santa Claus.

The Super Ball® was born in 1965, and it became America's most popular plaything that year. By Christmas time, only six months after it was introduced by Wham-O, 7 million balls had been sold at 98 cents apiece. Norman Stingley, a California chemist, invented the bouncing gray ball. In his spare time, he had compressed a synthetic rubber material under 3,500 pounds of pressure per square inch, and eventually created the remarkable ball. It had a resiliency of 92 percent, about three times that of a tennis ball, and could bounce for long periods. It was reported that presidential aide McGeorge Bundy had five dozen Super Balls® shipped to the White House for the amusement of staffers.

The table for Christmas Eve dinner in the Ukraine is set with two tablecloths: one for the ancestors of the family, the other for the living members. In pagan times, ancestors were believed to be benevolent spirits who, when shown respect, brought good fortune.

The tradition of Christmas lights dates back to when Christians were persecuted for saying Mass. A simple candle in the window meant that Mass would be celebrated there that night.

The traditional flaming Christmas pudding dates back to 1670 in England, and was derived from an earlier form of stiffened plum porridge.

The world's first singing commercial aired on the radio on Christmas Eve, 1926 for Wheaties cereal. The four male singers, eventually known as the Wheaties Quartet, sang the jingle. The Wheaties Quartet, comprised of an undertaker, a bailiff, a printer, and a businessman, performed the song for the next six years, at $6 per singer per week. The commercials were a resounding success.

Theodore Roosevelt, a staunch conservationist, banned Christmas trees in his home, even when he lived in the White House. His children, however, smuggled them into their bedrooms.

There are twelve courses in the Ukrainian Christmas Eve supper. According to the Christian tradition, each course is dedicated to one of Christ's apostles.

When Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, died on December 4, 1894, he willed his November 13 birthday to a friend who disliked her own Christmas birthday.

Yuletide-named towns in the United States include Santa Claus, located in Arizona and Indiana, Noel in Missouri, and Christmas in both Arizona and Florida.

Betty Grable (December 18, 1916 – July 2, 1973)


Betty Grable (December 18, 1916 – July 2, 1973) was an American actress, dancer and singer.

Her iconic bathing suit photo made her the number-one pin-up girl of the World War II era. It was later included in the LIFE magazine project "100 Photos that Changed the World". Grable was particularly noted for having the most beautiful legs in Hollywood and studio publicity widely dispersed photos featuring them. Hosiery specialists of the era often noted the ideal proportions of her legs as: thigh (18.5") calf (12"), and ankle (7.5"). Grable's legs were famously insured by her studio for $1,000,000 with Lloyds of London.


Grable became 20th Century Fox's top star during the decade. She appeared in Technicolor movies such as Down Argentine Way (1940), Moon Over Miami (1941) (both with Don Ameche), Springtime in The Rockies (1942), Coney Island (1943) with George Montgomery, Sweet Rosie O'Grady (1943) with Robert Young, Pin Up Girl (1944), Diamond Horseshoe (1945) with Dick Haymes, The Dolly Sisters (1945) with John Payne and June Haver. Mother Wore Tights (1947), her most popular film, was with her favorite costar, Dan Dailey.

It was during her reign as box office queen in 1943 that Grable posed for her famous pinup photo, which (along with her movies) soon became escapist fare among GIs fighting in World War II. The image was taken by studio photographer Frank Powolny.[6] It was rumored that the particular pose and angle were chosen to hide the fact that Grable was pregnant at the time of the photo. In the stage play (1951) and motion picture (1953), of Stalag 17, Stanislas "Animal" Kasava, (Robert Strauss) is infatuated with her, spending his day staring at her photographs. "I seen all your pictures six times" he says "I would not even open the popcorn."


Grable died July 2, 1973, of lung cancer at age 56 in Santa Monica, California. Her funeral was held July 5, 1973, 30 years to the day after her marriage to Harry James — who, in turn, died on what would have been his and Grable's 40th anniversary, July 5, 1983. She was interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California, in the Mausoleum of the Golden West, Sanctuary of Dawn section, with her mother Lillian, alongside her father 'Conn' Grable. Sister Marjorie Grable-Arnold joined them in their family crypt upon her death at 71, in 1980.


Among the lumunaries attending her funeral were her ex husband Harry James, Dorothy Lamour, Shirley Booth, Mitzi Gaynor, Johnnie Ray, Don Ameche, Cesar Romero, George Raft, Alice Faye and Dan Dailey. "I Had the Craziest Dream," the haunting ballad Betty introduced in "Springtime in the Rockies," was played on the church organ.

18, Dec. 1620: Mayflower passengers go ashore at Plymouth


Dec 18, 1620: Mayflower passengers come ashore at Plymouth Harbor



On December 18, 1620, passengers on the British ship Mayflower come ashore at modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, to begin their new settlement, Plymouth Colony.
The famous Mayflower story began in 1606, when a group of reform-minded Puritans in Nottinghamshire, England, founded their own church, separate from the state-sanctioned Church of England. Accused of treason, they were forced to leave the country and settle in the more tolerant Netherlands. After 12 years of struggling to adapt and make a decent living, the group sought financial backing from some London merchants to set up a colony in America. On September 6, 1620, 102 passengers--dubbed Pilgrims by William Bradford, a passenger who would become the first governor of Plymouth Colony--crowded on the Mayflower to begin the long, hard journey to a new life in the New World.

On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower anchored at what is now Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod. Before going ashore, 41 male passengers--heads of families, single men and three male servants--signed the famous Mayflower Compact, agreeing to submit to a government chosen by common consent and to obey all laws made for the good of the colony. Over the next month, several small scouting groups were sent ashore to collect firewood and scout out a good place to build a settlement. Around December 10, one of these groups found a harbor they liked on the western side of Cape Cod Bay. They returned to the Mayflower to tell the other passengers, but bad weather prevented them reaching the harbor until December 16. Two days later, the first group of Pilgrims went ashore.


After exploring the region, the settlers chose a cleared area previously occupied by members of a local Native American tribe, the Wampanoag. The tribe had abandoned the village several years earlier, after an outbreak of European disease. That winter of 1620-21 was brutal, as the Pilgrims struggled to build their settlement, find food and ward off sickness. By spring, 50 of the original 102 Mayflower passengers were dead. The remaining settlers made contact with returning members of the Wampanoag tribe and in March they signed a peace treaty with a tribal chief, Massasoit. Aided by the Wampanoag, especially the English-speaking Squanto, the Pilgrims were able to plant crops--especially corn and beans--that were vital to their survival. The Mayflower and its crew left Plymouth to return to England on April 5, 1621.

Over the next several decades, more and more settlers made the trek across the Atlantic to Plymouth, which gradually grew into a prosperous shipbuilding and fishing center. In 1691, Plymouth was incorporated into the new Massachusetts Bay Association, ending its history as an independent colony.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dec 16, 1773: The Boston Tea Party

Dec 16, 1773: The Boston Tea Party



In Boston Harbor, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians board three British tea ships and dump 342 chests of tea into the harbor.
The midnight raid, popularly known as the "Boston Tea Party," was in protest of the British Parliament's Tea Act of 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade. The low tax allowed the East India Company to undercut even tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny.


When three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England. After Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the "tea party" with about 60 members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British tea dumped in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16 was valued at some $18,000.


Parliament, outraged by the blatant destruction of British property, enacted the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts, in 1774. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America, and required colonists to quarter British troops. The colonists subsequently called the first Continental Congress to consider a united American resistance to the British.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Holidays...










John Lennon 9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980


The news arrived like fragment of some forgotten ritual. First a flash on television, interrupting the tail end of a football game. Then the telephones ringing, back and forth across the city, and then another bulletin, with more details, and then more phone calls from around the country, from friends, from kids with stunned voices, and then the dials being flipped from channel to channel while WINS played on the radio. And yes: It was true. Yes: Somebody had murdered John Lennon.


And because it was John Lennon, and because it was a man with a gun, we fell back into the ritual. If you were there for the sixties, the ritual was part of your life. You went through it for John F. Kennedy and for Martin Luther King, for Malcolm X and for Robert Kennedy. The earth shook, and then grief was slowly handled by plunging into newspapers and television shows. We knew there would be days of cliché-ridden expressions of shock from the politicians; tearful shots of mourning crowds; obscene invasions of the privacy of The Widow; calls for gun control; apocalyptic declarations about the sickness of America; and then, finally, the orgy over, everybody would go on with their lives.


Except . . . this time there was a difference. Somebody murdered John Lennon. Not a politician. Not a man whose abstract ideas could send people to wars, or bring them home; not someone who could marshal millions of human beings in the name of justice; not some actor on the stage of history. This time, someone had crawled out of a dark place, lifted a gun, and killed an artist. This was something new. The ritual was the same, the liturgy as stale as ever, but the object of attack was a man who had made art. This time the ruined body belonged to someone who had made us laugh, who had taught young people how to feel, who had helped change and shape an entire generation, from inside out. This time someone had murdered a song.

And it had happened in a city to which that artist had come in order to be private, in order to be safe. It had happened in New York.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nov. 20, 1945 - Nuremberg Trials Begin



On Nov. 20, 1945, 24 Nazi leaders went on trial before an international war crimes tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany.


On the opening day of the trial, the twenty-one indicted war trial defendants took their seats in the dock at the rear of the sage-green draped and dark paneled room. Behind them stood six American sentries with their backs against the wall. At 10 a.m., the marshal shouted, "Attention! All rise. The tribunal will now enter." The judges from the four countries walked through a door and took their seats at the bench. Sir Geoffrey Lawrence rapped his gavel. "This trial, which is now to begin," said Lawrence, "is unique in the annals of jurisprudence." The Major War Figures Trial was underway in Nuremberg.

The trial began with the reading of the indictments. The indictments concerned four counts. All defendants were indicted on at least two of the counts; several were indicted on all four counts. Count One, "conspiracy to wage aggressive war," addressed crimes committed before the war began. Count Two, "waging an aggressive war (or "crimes against peace"), addressed the undertaking of war in violation of international treaties and assurances. Count Three, "war crimes," addressed more traditional violations of the laws of war such as the killing or mistreatment of prisoners of war and the use of outlawed weapons. Count Four, "crimes against humanity," addressed crimes committed against Jews, ethnic minorities, the physically and mentally disabled, civilians in occupied countries, and other persons. The greatest of these crimes against humanity was, of course, the mass murder of Jews in concentration camps--the so-called "Final Solution." For an entire day, defendants listened as prosecutors read a detailed list of the crimes they stood accused of committing.

The last stage of the long trial was a defense of the Nazi organizations, followed by final statements by each of the defendants. On Saturday, August 31, the first of the indicted defendants, Hermann Goering, moved to the middle of the dock where a guard held before him a microphone suspended from a pole. Goering told the court that the trial had been nothing more than an exercise of power by the victors of a war: justice, he said, had nothing to do with it. Rudolf Hess offered an odd final statement, filled with references to visitors with "strange" and "glassy" eyes. He ended by saying it had been his "pleasure" to work "under the greatest son which my people produced in its thousand-year history." Some defendants offered apologies. Some wept. Albert Speer offered a warning. He spoke of the even more destructive weapons now being produced and the need to eliminate war once and for all. "This trial must contribute to the prevention of wars in the future," Speer said. "May God protect Germany and the culture of the West."

On Tuesday, October 1, the twenty-one defendants filed into the courtroom for the last time to receive the verdict of the tribunal. Sir Geoffrey Lawrence told the defendants that they must remain seated while he announced the verdicts. He began with Goering: "The defendant, Hermann Goering, was the moving force for aggressive war, second only to Adolf Hitler....He directed Himmler and Heydrich to 'bring about a complete solution of the Jewish question.'" There was no mitigating evidence. Guilty on all four counts. Lawrence continued with the verdicts. In all, eighteen defendants were convicted on one or more count, three (Schact, Von Papen, and Fritzsche) were found not guilty. The three acquitted defendants did not have long to enjoy their victory. In a press room surrounded by reporters, they received from a German policeman warrants for their arrests. They were to next be tried in German courts for alleged violations of German law.

Sentences were announced in the afternoon for the convicted defendants. Again, Lawrence began with Goering: "The International Military Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging." Goering, without expression, turned and left the courtroom. Ten other defendants (Ribbentrop, Keitel, Rosenberg, Frank, Frick, Kaltenbrunner, Streicher, Sauckel, Jodl, and Seyss-Inquart) were also told they would die on a rope. Life sentences were handed down to Hess, Funk, and Raeder. Von Schirach and Speer received 20-year sentences, Von Neurath a 15-year sentence, while Doenitz got a 10-year sentence. The trial had lasted 315 days.

Over the next two weeks, the condemned men met for the last times with family members and talked with their lawyers about their last-ditch appeal to the Allied Control Council, which had the power to reduce or commute sentences. On October 9, the Allied Control Council, composed of one member from each of the four occupying powers, met in London to discuss appeals from the IMT. After over three hours of debate, the ACC voted to reject all appeals. Four days later, the prisoners were informed that there last thin hope had disappeared.

On October 15, the day before the scheduled executions, Goering sat at the small desk in his prison cell and wrote a note:

"To the Allied Control Council:

"I would have had no objection to being shot. However, I will not facilitate execution of Germany's Reichsmarschall by hanging! For the sake of Germany, I cannot permit this. Moreover, I feel no moral obligation to submit to my enemies' punishment. For this reason, I have chosen to die like the great Hannibal."

Then Goering removed a smuggled cyanide pill and put it in his mouth. At 10:44 p.m., a guard noticed saw Goering bring his arm to his face and then began making choking sounds. A doctor was called. He arrived just in time to see Goering take his last breath.

A few hours later, at 1:11 a.m. on October 16, Joachim von Ribbentrop walked to the gallows constructed in the gymnasium of the Palace of Justice. Asked if he had any last words, he said, "I wish peace to the world." A black hood was pulled down across his head and the noose was slipped around his neck. A trapdoor opened. Two minutes later, the next in line, Field Marshal Keitel, stepped up the gallows stairs. By 2:45 a.m., it was all over.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving...coming soon!





Thanksgiving is one of the most popular holidays in the United States today. No matter what you are giving thanks for this year, it’s a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends, share stories and relax.

Origins of Thanksgiving

While harvest festivals have been celebrated around the world since time immemorial, the modern holiday we call Thanksgiving is generally considered to date back to 1621. Following a long and brutal winter, the Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest in the New World with a Thanksgiving feast.

This feast was attended by 90 members of the Wampanoag tribe, including their chief Massasoit. The Native Americans initially went to investigate the sounds of gunfire, which turned out to be the Pilgrims’ celebration. Upon this discovery, Massasoit sent his hunters out and they returned with five deer and numerous fowl to share with the Pilgrims over the course of their three day Thanksgiving celebration. Thus the tradition was born!

Thanksgiving Trivia

Thanksgiving wasn’t considered a national holiday until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln released a proclamation, officially establishing the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving holiday was later moved to the fourth Thursday in November by President Franklin Roosevelt to extend the Christmas shopping season and improve the economy.

Canadians also celebrate Thanksgiving; however theirs is on the 2nd Monday in October.

Over 84% of adults in the United States will attend Thanksgiving dinners this year.
Over 94% of those Thanksgiving dinners will include cranberry sauce.

Turkey Trivia

Benjamin Franklin argued that the turkey, and not the bald eagle, should be the national symbol of America. He claimed that the “vain and silly” turkey was a far better choice than the bald eagle, which he thought was a “coward.”

Even though they are generally seen as large and ungainly, turkeys:

• Can fly up to 55 MPH over short distances
• Run up to 25 MPH on the ground
• Have excellent hearing but no ears
• Have a poor sense of smell
• Can see in color
• Have a 270 degree field of vision, making them difficult to sneak up on
• Sometimes sleep in trees

Over 45 million turkeys are prepared and eaten in the United States for Thanksgiving each year.

The five most popular ways to eat the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving includes: soups or stews, sandwiches, casseroles, stir-fries and salads.

Age does matter. Older male turkeys are generally considered to be tastier than young males (stringy) or females (tough).

Young turkeys have a number of unfortunate names including “fryer” when they are less than 16 weeks old, and “roaster” when they are between 5 and 7 months old.

Only male “Tom” turkeys gobble, and they can be heard a mile away; the females only cluck or click.

The “Turkey Trot” dance was named after the short, jerky steps that turkeys make.

The Native Americans called turkeys “firkees,” which some believe to be the origin of the word. However, when turkeys are spooked they make a “turk turk turk” sound, which is where the name likely originates.

Turkeys may “gobble gobble” in English, but in Portuguese they say “Gluglu gluglu.”

Tommy Dorsey, Jr. (Nov 19, 1905 – Nov 26, 1956)




Tommy Dorsey, Jr. (November 19, 1905 – November 26, 1956)

Thomas Francis "Tommy" Dorsey, Jr. (November 19, 1905 – November 26, 1956) was an American jazz trombonist, trumpeter, composer, and bandleader of the Big Band era. He was known as "The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing", due to his smooth-toned trombone playing. He was the younger brother of bandleader Jimmy Dorsey. After Dorsey broke with his brother in the mid-1930s, he led an extremely popular band from the late '30s into the 1950s. Dorsey had a reputation for being a perfectionist. He was volatile and also known to hire and fire (and sometimes rehire) musicians based on his mood.

Tommy Dorsey's first band was formed out of the remains of the Joe Haymes band. The new band was popular from almost the moment it signed with RCA Victor with "On Treasure Island", the first of four hits for the new band in 1935. The Dorsey band had a national radio presence in 1936 first from Dallas and then from Los Angeles. Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra took over comedian Jack Pearl's radio show in 1937.

By 1939, Dorsey was aware of criticism that his band lacked a jazz feeling. He hired arranger Sy Oliver away from the Jimmie Lunceford band. Sy Oliver's arrangements include "On The Sunny Side of the Street" and "T.D.'s Boogie Woogie"; Oliver also composed two of the new band's signature instrumentals, "Well, Git It" and "Opus One." In 1940, Dorsey hired singer Frank Sinatra from bandleader Harry James. Frank Sinatra made eighty recordings from 1940 to 1942 with the Dorsey band. Two of those eighty songs are "In The Blue of Evening" and "This Love of Mine". Frank Sinatra achieved his first great success as a vocalist in the Dorsey band and claimed he learned breath control from watching Dorsey play trombone. In turn Dorsey said his trombone style was heavily influenced by that of Jack Teagarden. Among Dorsey's staff of arrangers was Axel Stordahl who arranged for Frank Sinatra in his Columbia and Capitol records years. Another member of the Dorsey band was trombonist Nelson Riddle, who later had a partnership as one of Sinatra's arrangers and conductors in the 1950s and afterwards. Another noted Dorsey arranger, who in the 1950s, married and was professionally associated with Dorsey veteran Jo Stafford, was Paul Weston. Bill Finegan, an arranger who left Glenn Miller's civilian band, arranged for the Tommy Dorsey band from 1942 to 1950.Dorsey branched out in the mid-1940s and owned two music publishing companies, Sun and Embassy. After opening at the Los Angeles ballroom, The Hollywood Palladium on the Palladium's first night, Dorsey's relations with the ballroom soured and he opened a competing ballroom, The Casino Gardens circa 1944. Dorsey also owned for a short time a trade magazine called The Bandstand. Dorsey was also part owner of the Bob Chester band in 1940. He was also an early investor in Glenn Miller's second successful band of 1938.

Tommy Dorsey disbanded the orchestra at the end of 1946. Dorsey might have broken up his own band permanently following World War II, as many big bands did due to the shift in music economics following the war, but Tommy Dorsey's album for RCA, "All Time Hits" placed in the top ten records in February, 1947. In addition, "How Are Things In Glocca Morra?" a single recorded by Dorsey became a top ten hit in March, 1947. Both of these successes made it possible for Dorsey to re-organize a big band in early 1947. The Dorsey brothers were also reconciling. The biographical film of 1947, The Fabulous Dorseys describes sketchy details of how the brothers got their start from-the-bottom-up into the jazz era of one-nighters, the early days of radio in its infancy stages, and the onward march when both brothers ended up with Paul Whiteman before 1935 when The Dorsey Brothers' Orchestra split into two. In the early 1950s, Tommy Dorsey moved from RCA Victor back to the Decca record label.

Jimmy Dorsey broke up his own big band in 1953. Tommy invited him to join up as a feature attraction and a short while later, Tommy renamed the band the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra featuring Jimmy Dorsey. In 1953, the Dorseys focused their attention on television. On December 26, 1953, the brothers appeared with their orchestra on Jackie Gleason's CBS television show, which was preserved on kinescope and later released on home video by Gleason. The brothers took the unit on tour and onto their own television show, Stage Show, from 1955 to 1956. On one episode they introduced future noted rock musician Elvis Presley to national television audiences.

Dorsey's married life was varied and, at times, lurid. His first wife was 16-year-old Mildred Kraft, with whom he eloped in 1922, when he was 17. They had two children, Patricia and Tom (nicknamed "Skipper"). They divorced in 1943 after Dorsey's affair with his former singer Edythe Wright. He then wed movie actress Pat Dane in 1943, and they were divorced in 1947, but not before he gained headlines for striking actor Jon Hall when Hall embraced Dorsey's wife. Finally, Dorsey married Jane Carl New on March 27, 1948 in Atlanta, Georgia. She had been a dancer at the Copacabana nightclub in New York City. Tommy and Jane Dorsey had two children, Catherine Susan and Steve.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Edna May Oliver (Nov 9, 1883 – Nov 9, 1942)




Edna May Oliver (November 9, 1883 – November 9, 1942)

American film actress. During the 1930s, she was one of the American screen's best-known character actresses often playing tart-tongued spinsters.

Born Edna May Nutter in Malden, Massachusetts, the daughter of Ida May and Charles Edward Nutter, Edna was a descendant of the sixth American president, John Quincy Adams. She quit school at age fourteen in order to pursue a career on stage and achieved her first success in 1917 on Broadway in Jerome Kern's musical comedy Oh, Boy!, playing the hero's comically dour Quaker Aunt Penelope.

In 1925, Oliver appeared in The Cradle Snatchers co-starring Mary Boland, Margaret Dale, Gene Raymond, Raymond Hackett & a young Humphrey Bogart. Oliver's most notable stage appearance was as Parthy, wife of Cap'n Andy Hawks, in the original 1927 stage production of the musical Show Boat. She repeated the role in the 1932 Broadway revival, but turned down the chance to play Parthy in the 1936 film version of the show so that she could play the Nurse in that year's film version of Romeo and Juliet, her only role in a Shakespeare film or play.


Her film debut occurred in 1923 in the film Wife in Name Only and she continued to appear in films until Lydia in 1941. Oliver first gained major notice in films for her appearances in several comedy films starring the team of Wheeler & Woolsey including Half Shot at Sunrise, her first film under her RKO Radio Pictures contract in 1930.

While most often playing featured parts, she starred in 10 films, including the women's stories Fanny Foley Herself and Ladies of the Jury. Edna May Oliver's most popular star vehicles were mystery-comedies starring Oliver as spinster sleuth Hildegarde Withers from the popular Stuart Palmer novels. The series ended prematurely when Oliver left RKO to sign with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1935; the studio attempted to continue the series with Helen Broderick and then ZaSu Pitts as Withers, but these later films were not well-received.

Since Oliver was cast in several film versions of classic British literature, including Alice in Wonderland (1933), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), David Copperfield (1935), the 1936 film version of Romeo and Juliet, and Pride and Prejudice (1940), many film-goers have incorrectly assumed that she is British. She received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1939 for her appearance in Drums Along the Mohawk.


Oliver was one of the many movie stars caricatured in the 1937 cartoon Porky's Road Race, and her notably "bottom-heavy" physique was satirized in cartoons such as Friz Freleng's The Hardship of Miles Standish (1940).

Oliver died on her 59th birthday in 1942 following a short intestinal ailment that proved terminal, and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glenda, California.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Victorian Ladies

Some Victorian Ladies:











Douglas Walker's Modern Delft


Douglas Walker's Modern Delft

Douglas Walker’s recent paintings on cracked surfaces are reminiscent of the blues and whites of Delft pottery or classical Chinese painting, all bridges and waterfalls. Walker’s portraits and silhouettes evoke the glamour days of the silent screen or images of Victorian ladies, updated in a curious palette and embellished with swirls and curlicues. Often the brushstrokes are feathery, revealing a hint of vanity or a lushness, and one almost suspects that a peacock may be lurking in the pale blue backgrounds.

Artist: Douglas Walker





The Carriage


A carriage is a wheeled vehicle for people, usually horse-drawn; litters (palanquins) and sedan chairs are excluded, since they are wheelless vehicles. The carriage is especially designed for private passenger use and for comfort or elegance, though some are also used to transport goods. It may be light, smart and fast or heavy, large and comfortable. Carriages normally have suspension using leaf springs, elliptical springs (in the 19th century) or leather strapping. A public passenger vehicle would not usually be called a carriage – terms for such include stagecoach, charabanc and omnibus. Working vehicles such as the (four-wheeled) wagon and (two-wheeled) cart share important parts of the history of the carriage, as does the fast (two-wheeled) chariot.

The word carriage (abbreviated carr or cge) is from Old Northern French cariage, to carry in a vehicle. The word car, then meaning a kind of two-wheeled cart for goods, also came from Old Northern French about the beginning of the 14th century; it was also used for railway carriages, and was extended to cover automobile around the end of the nineteenth century, when early models were called horseless carriages.
A carriage is sometimes called a team, as in "horse and team". A carriage with its horse is a rig. An elegant horse-drawn carriage with its retinue of servants is an equipage. A carriage together with the horses, harness and attendants is a turnout or setout. A procession of carriages is a cavalcade.

Some horsecarts found in Celtic graves show hints that their platform was suspended in a frame, elastically.[4] Four wheeled waggons were used in prehistoric Europe, and their form known from excavations suggests that the basic construction techniques of wheel and undercarriage (that survived until the age of the motor car) were established then.

The earliest type of carriage recorded was the chariot during the 9th century. Used in Egypt, the near East and Europe, it was typically a component of war, which was made up of a light basin and two wheels essentially. The light basin held one or two passengers and was pulled by one to two horses. The chariot was so successful in war because it made a soldier faster. Chariots however, quickly became outdated and were not capable of carrying enough people to be used as a method of transport.

First century BCE Romans used sprung wagons for overland journeys. The kingdoms of the Zhou Dynasty and Warring States were also known to have used carriages as transportation. With the decline of these civilizations these techniques almost disappeared. It is likely that Roman carriages employed some form of suspension on chains or leather straps, as indicated by carriage parts found in excavations.


The medieval carriage was typically a four-wheeled wagon type, with a rounded top ('tilt') similar in appearance to the Conestoga Wagon familiar from the USA. Sharing the traditional form of wheels and undercarriage known since the Bronze Age, it very likely also employed the pivoting fore-axle in continuity from the ancient world. Suspension (on chains) is recorded in visual images and written accounts from the 14th century ('chars branlant' or rocking carriages), and was in widespread use by the 15th century. Carriages were largely used by royalty, aristocrats (and especially by women), and could be elaborately decorated and gilded. These carriages were on four wheels often and were pulled by two to four horses depending on how they were decorated (elaborate decoration with gold lining made the carriage heavier). Wood and iron were the primary requirements needed to build a carriage and carriages that were used by non-royalty were covered by plain leather. Another form of the carriage was the pageant wagon of the 14th century. Historians debate on the structure and size of pageant wagons however, they are generally miniature house-like structures that rest on four to six wheels depending on the size of the wagon. The pageant wagon is significant because up until the 14th century most carriages were on two or 3 wheels; the chariot, rocking carriage, and baby carriage are two examples of carriages which pre-date the pageant wagon. Historians also debate whether or not pageant wagons were built with pivotal axle systems, which allowed the wheels to turn. Whether it was a four or six wheel pageant wagon, most historians maintain that pivotal axle systems were implemented on pageant wagons because many roads were often winding with some sharp turns. Six wheel pageant wagons also represent another innovation in carriages; they were one of the first carriages to use multiple pivotal axles. Pivotal axles were used on the front set of wheels and the middle set of wheels. This allowed the horse to move freely and steer the carriage in accordance with the road or path.

One of the great innovations of the carriage was the invention of the suspended carriage or the chariot branlant (though whether this was a Roman or medieval innovation remains uncertain). The 'chariot branlant' of medieval illustrations was suspended by chains rather than leather straps as had been believed. Chains provided a smoother ride in the chariot branlant because the compartment no longer rested on the turning axles. In the 15th century, carriages were made lighter and needed only one horse to haul the carriage. This carriage was designed and innovated in Hungary. Both innovations appeared around the same time and historians believe that people began comparing the chariot branlant and the Hungarian light coach. However, the earliest illustrations of the Hungarian 'Kochi-wagon' do not indicate any suspension, and often the use of three horses in harness. Most importantly, the passengers were typically men and not women.

Under King Mathias Corvinus (1458–90), who enjoyed fast travel, the Hungarians developed fast road transport, and the town of Kocs between Budapest and Vienna became an important post-town, and gave its name to the new vehicle type. The Hungarian coach was highly praised because it was capable of holding 8 men, used light wheels, could be towed by only one horse (it may have been suspended by leather straps, but this is a topic of debate). Ultimately it was the Hungarian coach that generated a greater buzz of conversation than the chariot branlant of France because it was a much smoother ride. Henceforth, the Hungarian coach spread across Europe rather quickly, in part due to Ippolito d'Este of Ferrara (1479–1529), nephew of Mathias' queen Beatrix of Aragon, who as a very junior Archbishopric of Esztergom developed a liking of Hungarian riding and took his carriage and driver back to Italy. Around 1550 the 'coach' made its appearance throughout the major cities of Europe, and the new word entered the vocabulary of all their languages. However, the new 'coach' seems to have been a concept (fast road travel for men) as much as any particular type of vehicle, and there is no obvious change that accompanied the innovation. As it moved throughout Europe in the late 16th century, the coach’s body structure was ultimately changed, from a round-top to the 'four-poster' carriages that became standard by c.1600.

The coach had doors in the side, with an iron step protected by leather that became the 'boot' in which servants might ride. The driver sat on a seat at the front, and the most important occupant sat in the back facing forwards. The earliest coaches can be seen at Veste Coburg, Lisbon, and the Moscow Kremlin, and they become a commonplace in European art. It was not until the 17th century that further innovations with steel springs and glazing took place, and only in the 18th century, with better road surfaces, was there a major innovation with the introduction of the steel C-spring.
It was not until the 18th century that steering systems were truly improved. Erasmus Darwin was a young English doctor who was driving a carriage about 10,000 miles a year to visit patients all over England. Darwin found two essential problems or shortcomings of the commonly used light carriage or Hungarian carriage. First, the front wheels were turned by a rotating front axle, which had been used for years, but these wheels were often quite small and hence the rider, carriage and horse felt the brunt of every bump on the road. Secondly, he recognized the danger of overturning.

A rotating frontal axle changes a carriage’s base from a rectangle to a triangle because the wheel on the inside of the turn is able to turn more sharply than the outside front wheel. Darwin proposed to fix these insufficiencies by proposing a principle in which the two front wheels turn about a centre that lies on the extended line of the back axle. Darwin argued that carriages would then be easier to pull and prevent carriages from overturning.


Carriage use in the U.S. came with the establishment of England’s thirteen colonies. Early colonial horse tracks quickly grew into roads especially as the colonists extended their territories southwest. Colonists began using carts as these roads and trading increased between the north and south. Eventually carriages or coaches were sought to transport goods as well as people. As in Europe, chariots, coaches and/or carriages were a mark of status. The tobacco planters of the South were some of the first Americans to use the carriage as a form of human transportation. As the tobacco farming industry grew in the southern colonies so did the frequency of carriages, coaches and wagons. Upon the turn of the 18th century wheeled vehicle use in the colonies was at an all time high. Carriages, coaches and wagons were being taxed based on the number of wheels they had. These taxes were implemented in the South primarily as the South had superior numbers of horses and wheeled vehicles when compared to the North. Still, when comparing the colonies to the Europeans; Europe still used carriage transportation far more often and on a much larger scale than anywhere else in the world.

Carriages and coaches began to disappear as use of steam propulsion began to generate more and more interest and research. Steam power quickly won the battle against animal power as is evident by a newspaper article written in England in 1895 entitled “Horseflesh vs. Steam”. The article highlights the death of the carriage as the means of transportation.

The most complete working collection of carriages can be seen at the Royal Mews in London where a large selection of vehicles is in regular use. These are supported by a staff of liveried coachmen, footmen and postillions. The horses earn their keep by supporting the work of the Royal Household, particularly during ceremonial events. Horses pulling a large carriage known as a "covered brake" collect the Yeoman of the Guard in their distinctive red uniforms from St James’s Palace for Investitures at Buckingham Palace; High Commissioners or Ambassadors are driven to their Audiences with The Queen in Landaus; visiting Heads of State are transported to and from official arrival ceremonies and members of the Royal Family are driven in Royal Mews coaches during Trooping the Colour, the Order of the Garter service at Windsor Castle and carriage processions at the beginning of each day of Royal Ascot.

An almost bewildering variety of horse-drawn carriages existed. Arthur Ingram's Horse Drawn Vehicles since 1760 in Colour lists 325 types with a short description of each. By the early 19th century one's choice of carriage was only in part based on practicality and performance; it was also a status statement and subject to changing fashions.

Zenyatta (foaled April 1, 2004 in Kentucky)



Zenyatta (foaled April 1, 2004 in Kentucky) is an American champion Thoroughbred racehorse, undefeated in her 19 starts—and one of the relatively few undefeated horses in American Thoroughbred racing history.

Owned by Jerry Moss and his wife Ann, Zenyatta is trained by John Shirreffs and has been ridden by American "Hall of Fame" jockey Mike Smith for 16 of 19 starts. Jockey David Flores rode Zenyatta in her first three starts. She races in the teal and pink colors of her owners, her groom is Mario Espinoza, she stands 17.2 hands (183 cm) tall and she weighs 1,217 pounds (552 kg).

According to a 2010 60 Minutes report, Zenyatta was purchased at the low price of $60,000 because she suffered from a form of ringworm; she has since won purses totaling over $6 million and is noted for overtaking her competition in an intense surge after starting each of her races "lingering languidly" at the rear of the pack.[1] She has been featured in W Magazine, and will end her racing career with the 2010 Breeder's Cup.

On October 2, 2010, Zenyatta broke the All-time North American record (set by two-time champion Bayakoa) for Grade/Group I victories by a filly/mare. She won her thirteenth Grade/Group I race out of Post 5 in Race 7 at Oak Tree at Hollywood Park. She ran her unbeaten streak to 19–0. Zenyatta also tied the All-time North American record for consecutive victories without defeat (List of Undefeated Thoroughbreds) and won her ninth consecutive Grade/Group I victory. Zenyatta also broke the All-time North American female earnings record (formerly held by Ouija Board, who retired in 2006 with earnings in excess of $6,312,552). Zenyatta (who carried 123 lb) won her third Lady's Secret Stakes by a half length over Hollywood Oaks winner Switch and was ridden by Mike Smith. She finished the 1 1⁄16 miles in 1:42.97 and pushed her total career earnings to $6,404,580. She earned 150,000 of the 250,000 purse. She paid 2.20 to Win, 2.10 to Place with no Show bets. If a person had of bet $100.00 on Zenyatta her first Race and then used all winnings of that race and each race thereafter reinvesting in a win bet each time, they would have a total of $ 1,498,616.03 so far.

Zenyatta's next and final race will be the Breeders' Cup Classic on November 6 at Churchill Downs.

***I love this horse! Good luck today sweet Zenyatta!!!

Jill Clayburgh (April 30, 1944 – November 5, 2010)


Jill Clayburgh (April 30, 1944 – November 5, 2010) was an American actress.

Clayburgh was born in New York City, the daughter of Julia Louise (née Dorr), a theatrical production secretary for David Merrick, and Albert Henry "Bill" Clayburgh, a manufacturing executive. Her paternal grandmother was concert and opera singer Alma Lachenbruch Clayburgh.

Clayburgh's father's family was Jewish and wealthy; she was raised in a "fashionable" neighborhood on Manhattan's Upper East Side, where she attended the prestigious Brearley School. Clayburgh attended Sarah Lawrence College, where she decided that she wanted to be an actress.

Clayburgh married screenwriter and playwright David Rabe in 1979. They had one son, Michael Rabe and one daughter, actress Lily Rabe.

Clayburgh joined the Charles Street Repertory Theater in Boston. She appeared in numerous Broadway productions in the 1960s and 1970s, including The Rothschilds and Pippin. Clayburgh made her screen debut in The Wedding Party, filmed in 1963 but not released until six years later, and gained attention with roles such as that of Gene Wilder's love interest in the 1976 comedy-mystery Silver Streak, co-starring Richard Pryor.

She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for 1978's An Unmarried Woman, for which she won the "Best Actress Award" at the Cannes Film Festival, and for 1979's Starting Over, a comedy with Burt Reynolds. She also received strong notices for a dramatic performance in I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can (which co-starred Geraldine Page).


Her other films include Portnoy's Complaint, Gable and Lombard (in which she portrayed screen legend Carole Lombard), as a pro football team owner's daughter in Semi-Tough, as a mathematician in It's My Turn (in which she teaches the proof of the snake lemma), as a conservative Supreme Court justice in First Monday in October and in Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial La Luna, a role in which her character masturbates her son in an attempt to ease his withdrawal from heroin.

Television audiences know Clayburgh from numerous roles in series and movies including Law and Order, The Practice and as Ally McBeal's mother. She received Emmy Award nominations for her work in the made-for-television movie Hustling in 1975 and for guest appearances in the series Nip/Tuck in 2005.

In 2006, she appeared on Broadway in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park with Patrick Wilson and Amanda Peet; she played Peet's mother, a role originated by Mildred Natwick. She also returned to the screen as a therapist's eccentric wife in the all-star ensemble dramedy Running With Scissors, an autobiographical tale of teenage angst and dysfunction based on the book by Augusten Burroughs. During 2007, Clayburgh appeared in the ABC television series Dirty Sexy Money, playing Letitia Darling.

Jill Clayburgh survived chronic lymphocytic leukemia for more than two decades. She died at her home during the morning hours of November 5, 2010, surrounded by her family.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Loretta Swit (born November 4, 1937)



Loretta Swit (born November 4, 1937)
is best-known for her portrayal of Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan on M*A*S*H.
When Swit arrived in Hollywood in 1970, she performed in television shows, including Gunsmoke, Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, and Mannix.

Starting in 1972, Swit played Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan in the television series M*A*S*H. She inherited the star-making role from actress Sally Kellerman, who portrayed Houlihan in the feature film. Swit, Alan Alda, Jamie Farr, and William Christopher stayed for all 11 seasons of the show, from 1972 to 1983.

She and Alda were the only two actors to have been on the pilot episode and the finale; she appeared in all but 11 of the total of 251 episodes. Swit received two Emmy Awards for her work on M*A*S*H. Later, she was also the first M*A*S*H star to visit South Korea, when she narrated the documentary Korea, the Forgotten War.

In 1981, Swit played the "Cagney" role in the movie pilot for the television series Cagney & Lacey, but was precluded by contractual obligations from continuing the role. Actress Meg Foster portrayed Cagney for the first six episodes of the television series with Sharon Gless taking over the role from that point on.


Swit also guest-starred in shows such as The Love Boat, Match Game, Pyramid, and Hollywood Squares. She also starred in Christmas programs such as the television version of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and 1987's PBS Special A Christmas Calendar. Loretta's latest appearance was on GSN Live on October 10, 2008.

Swit married actor Dennis Holahan in 1983 and divorced him in 1995. Holahan played Per Johannsen, a Swedish diplomat who became briefly involved with Swit's character in an episode of M*A*S*H. Swit has not remarried and has no children.


Swit has written a book on needlepoint (A Needlepoint Scrapbook). Swit is a very strong advocate for animals and animal rights, donating much of her time to animal-related causes.





Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Marie Antoinette - 2 Nov 1755 - 16 Oct 1793



Marie Antoinette (Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna; 2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793) was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and of Navarre. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Emperor Francis I.

At the age of fourteen, on the day of her marriage to Louis-Auguste, Dauphin of France, she became Dauphine de France. At the death of King Louis XV, in May 1774, her husband ascended the throne of France as King Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette assumed the title of Queen of France and of Navarre. After seven years of marriage she gave birth to a daughter, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, the first of their four children.

Initially charmed by her personality and beauty, the French people generally came to dislike her, accusing "the Austrian" of being profligate, promiscuous, and harboring sympathies for France's enemies.


At the height of the French Revolution, Louis XVI was deposed and the royal family was imprisoned. Nine months after her husband's execution, she was tried, convicted of treason, and executed by guillotine on 16 October 1793.

Louis was executed on 21 January 1793, at the age of thirty-eight. The result was that the "Widow Capet", as the former queen was called after the death of her husband, plunged into deep mourning; she refused to eat or do any exercise. There is no knowledge of her proclaiming her son as Louis XVII; however, the comte de Provence, in exile, recognised his nephew as the new king of France and took the title of Regent. Marie-Antoinette's health rapidly deteriorated in the following months. By this time she suffered from tuberculosis and possibly uterine cancer, which caused her to haemorrhage frequently.

Despite her condition, the debate as to her fate was the central question of the National Convention after Louis's death. There were those who had been advocating her death for some time, while some had the idea of exchanging her for French prisoners of war or for a ransom from the Holy Roman Emperor. Thomas Paine advocated exile to America. Starting in April, however, a Committee of Public Safety was formed, and men such as Jacques Hébert were beginning to call for Antoinette's trial; by the end of May, the Girondins had been chased out of power and arrested. Other calls were made to "retrain" the Dauphin, to make him more pliant to revolutionary ideas. This was carried out when the eight year old boy Louis Charles was separated from Antoinette on 3 July, and given to the care of a cobbler. On 1 August, she herself was taken out of the Tower and entered into the Conciergerie as Prisoner No. 280. Despite various attempts to get her out, such as the Carnation Plot in September, Marie Antoinette refused when the plots for her escape were brought to her attention.


She was finally tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal on 14 October. Unlike the king, who had been given time to prepare a defence, the queen's trial was far more of a sham, considering the time she was given (less than one day) and the Jacobins' misogynistic view of women in general. Among the things she was accused of (most, if not all, of the accusations were untrue and probably lifted from rumours begun by libelles) were orchestrating orgies in Versailles, sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria, plotting to kill the Duke of Orléans, incest with her son, declaring her son to be the new king of France and orchestrating the massacre of the Swiss Guards in 1792.

The most infamous charge was that she sexually abused her son. This was according to Louis Charles, who, through his coaching by Hébert and his guardian, accused his mother. After being reminded that she had not answered the charge of incest, Marie Antoinette protested emotionally to the accusation, and the women present in the courtroom – the market women who had stormed the palace for her entrails in 1789 – ironically began to support her. She had been composed throughout the trial until this accusation was made, to which she finally answered, "If I have not replied it is because Nature itself refuses to respond to such a charge laid against a mother."

However, in reality the outcome of the trial had already been decided by the Committee of Public Safety around the time the Carnation Plot was uncovered, and she was declared guilty of treason in the early morning of 16 October, after two days of proceedings. Back in her cell, she composed a moving letter to her sister-in-law Madame Élisabeth, affirming her clear conscience, her Catholic faith and her feelings for her children. The letter did not reach Élisabeth.


On the same day, her hair was cut off and she was driven through Paris in an open cart, wearing a simple white dress. At 12:15 pm, two and a half weeks before her thirty-eighth birthday, she was executed at the Place de la Révolution (present-day Place de la Concorde). Her last words were, "Pardon me Sir, I meant not to do it", to Sanson the executioner, whose foot she had accidentally stepped on before she was executed by guillotine. Her body was thrown into an unmarked grave in the Madeleine cemetery, rue d'Anjou, (which was closed the following year).

Her sister-in-law Élisabeth was executed in 1794 and her son died in prison in 1795. Her daughter returned to Austria in a prisoner exchange, married and died childless in 1851.


Both her body and that of Louis XVI were exhumed on 18 January 1815, during the Bourbon Restoration, when the comte de Provence had become King Louis XVIII. Christian burial of the royal remains took place three days later, on 21 January, in the necropolis of French Kings at the Basilica of St Denis.

In popular culture, the phrase "Let them eat cake" is often attributed to Marie Antoinette. However, there is no evidence to support that she ever uttered this phrase, and it is now generally regarded as a "journalistic cliché". It originally appeared in Book VI of the first part (finished in 1767, published in 1782) of Rousseau's putative autobiographical work, Les Confessions.